Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Smoothie That's Changing My Life

Guys, I’m not even sure I’m hyperbolizing on that one.

Quick backstory: I’m in a place where I hate my body. Again. Still. Whatever. I lost 32 pounds on Weight Watchers back in 2011 and kind of fell off the bandwagon around the holiday season and then gained it all back over the course of 2012. I’m back to my original weight. I feel lumpy and squishy and unattractive and fat. Last spring, I started running, a little bit, with my end goal to run a 5K. In October, I ran a (slow) 32 minutes and felt incredibly triumphant, but then it got cold and life and etc and so I turned to indoor circuit training, which, at first, I saw some success with (I was losing inches on my arms and legs each month!) but then, again, those damn holidays and traveling and life and etc and I’ve fallen out of the habit again. I got incredibly frustrated with myself and so irrationally angry at my face whenever I looked in the mirror, like, HI THERE CHIN FAT, WHO GAVE YOU PERMISSION TO BE THERE?

I was feeling really defeated, and I knew I needed to do something, but I was overwhelmed. I don’t know how to eat healthy – while still eating affordably, with little time to cook, with guaranteed leftovers for three days. I don’t know how to implement a workout routine because I DON’T KNOW what to do. I can do Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, sometimes, although the last time I was ready to cry by the time I got to the last ab part, and I can pin all the arm exercises and muffin-top exercises in the world to a board that I don’t look at, but… there’s so much out there, I know it’s not hard, I just didn’t know how to start.

So I just… did. After a particularly self-loathing Sunday a couple weeks ago, I decided I was going to work out every day that week. (I know, I know. Never do this.) On the days where I couldn’t make it to my fitness center, I’d head on over to the BF’s apartment and use his elliptical machine. One night I even made up a routine of crunches and calf exercises and little things like that and kept improvising until it had been about an hour. I had three workouts on the books by that Wednesday night, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. On Thursday, I took the night off and decided to cook something healthy and give my body a day of rest. 

I’d signed up for this weekly health session wellness program whatever something at work, and the lady with a British-esque accent chirped at us about how important whole grains and beans and plants were for you (the consensus at lunch on Monday with my coworkers was that she was trying to push us all to a vegan or plant-based diet, which I am not inherently opposed to, but… I was hoping for tips to incrementally change my habits, not to fling myself into an entire new lifestyle. Big change like that is scary and all I think about are the things I can no longer eat, which always results in FAILURE.) But it stuck with me, and I made a healthy pasta-chicken-chickpea dish last week* which, frankly, if I make again, I’m going to skip the chicken. It added unnecessary prep time AND the olive oil in my skillet started kicking off so much smoke that my alarm went off, which was… awkward. That’s never happened to me while cooking before. Plus, when I actually went to eat it,  I found that I didn’t even WANT the chicken with it, that the pasta was enough. I was pleased with myself. Look at me, being healthy!

*I will post the recipe, someday. Swearsies.

Anyway, as one would expect, I missed the few days (WEEKENDS ARE TERRIBLE FOR WORKOUT ROUTINES BY THE WAY), then got really frustrated with myself, then ended up at a restaurant where I was consumed with All The Guilt from the accumulation of All The Bad Foods I’d eaten. But! Lo! The heavens parted and pushed me to Nicole’s blog where I encountered her post for the Ultimate Green Smoothie.

Now, Nicole is my guru for many things, but I get kind of intimidated when she posts about health and fitness because some of the ingredients are all fancy and expensive-sounding and I don’t really know quite what they are or what to do with them without very specific instructions. I mean, I only learned about six months ago how to pronounce “quinoa” – or what it even was. (PS, it’s “KEEN-wah”, should you be as clueless as I was. Though the BF and I have this habit-slash-game of purposely mispronouncing things while we’re wandering through the grocery store. I am the best mispronouncer ever. QUINN-OH-AH! AH-KYE! CHIP-AUGHT-ELL! [quinoa, acai, chipotle, respectively. I have another really good one too but I can’t remember it offhand.] It’s to the point now where I actually have to stop and think about the proper pronunciation so I don’t make an ass of myself in front of someone who is NOT my BF.

But I decided to try it anyway, because it seemed interesting, and more importantly, it seemed doable. The ingredients were things that I could find or already had. In a dazzling coincidence, I even had some spinach left over from that pasta dish (only the second time in my life, I might add, that I’ve had spinach in my house, and the first time it was of the not-frozen variety.) I skimmed the list and decided that all I really needed to buy was almond milk (which I’d been wanting to try anyway, since Actual Milk makes me pray for the sweet release of death) and some more fruit, because I had pretty much eaten through my entire supply. I even had little packets of stevia already from the last time I made a smoothie, which was probably sometime at the end of last summer. Time flies, right? 

I took my weary little self to Target after work because I had to buy cat food and shampoo (my life, it is glamorous, yes?) and figured I’d see what groceries they had available to me, since I am not fortunate enough to have a Super Target in my town. (I know, right? I don’t know why I don’t move, either.) I picked up a bag of frozen fruit that contained several of my favorites – peaches and mangoes (I have an unhealthy obsession with peaches and mangoes… though, technically, they’re fruit, so maybe it’s a HEALTHY obsession? Yeah? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), bananas, pineapple. I snagged a carton of almond milk. My smoothie checklist was complete.

But something else happened while I was wandering. I BOUGHT OTHER HEALTHY STUFF.

Channeling the spirit of Health Lady and Nicole, I wandered through our feeble food section and was kind of surprised at what happened next. I read labels. I said no to things. I bought things that included the words “whole grain” and with teensy ingredient lists. I found myself wondering who this strange person was that was pushing my shopping cart.

I’m pretty psyched by the time I get home. (So excited that my tenses throughout this post are completely inconsistent, oops.) I happily retrieve my blender from its hibernation and surround myself with all of the ingredients. Layer by layer, I follow Nicole’s formula. I watched as it blended together to form an incredibly green substance that, well, honestly, looked a little sketchy. I told myself to trust Nicole, she has never led me astray before. But what if it tastes all… green? My brain wailed. We don’t want to drink a salad! Ew! It’s going to be gross. And then look at all the ingredients you just wasted. I shushed it (the brain, not the blender, though that thing is horrifically loud) and opened the lid and peered over the top. It smelled okay. I stuck a fingertip in and licked it off. To my utmost surprise, it tasted nothing like green. It tasted like fruit. I mean, not solely like fruit, but mostly like fruit.

It was delicious.

I dumped as much of it as I could into my cup and plopped down on the kitchen floor and sipped happily through my straw. It was incredibly unappealing-looking, but damn, it was good. I immediately tweeted and Instagrammed it because those are apparently things I do now, and I vowed never to doubt Nicole again.

But that’s not the life-changing part, no. I mean, other than the fact that I got over a fear I didn’t know I had of drinking green things.

I made some food that would have made the Health Lady proud, and then instead of totally blowing my evening, I sat down on my couch (not my bed, mind you – otherwise known as Nap Time) with a book and read for a couple hours. I meant to quit after my self-imposed time limit went off, but… you know. BOOKS. READING. So I finally closed the book around eleven and started bustling around my apartment to get ready for bed. I did some inadvertent cleaning while I searched for my stamps (I KNOW I HAVE THEM!) and then went to bed, feeling pretty good about myself and life in general… which was a far cry from a few nights ago, when I was so frustrated at myself that I burst into tears.

The next day, I packed myself a healthy lunch. I was super productive at work, if you don’t count my lunchtime Pinterest binge. I counted the hours until I could go home and do some form of exercization and, well, go to the grocery store and buy more spinach (I used up what little bit I had) to MAKE ANOTHER SMOOTHIE. I mean, I can always make a “regular” smoothie since I usually have the other stuff, but somehow, it just doesn’t feel right.

The thing is, though? I feel good. I’m actually enjoying this healthy food, and instead of being completely underwhelmed and bored by what’s left after I cut out what I know is bad for me, I’m kind of excited to try new things. And I’m trying really hard to focus on it one meal or one day at a time. If I make healthy choices today, then tomorrow it will be easier, and so on, and so forth, until it’s a habit. The Health Lady told us that your tastebuds re-grow about every 2-3 weeks, so if you want to cut down on something (her example was cheese), try to cut it for two weeks. Your new tastebuds will have never known the glory of cheese, so they’ll be somewhat unimpressed when you do eat it again, and so you’ll want less of it. Or something. She might have been lying.

But it’s been a few weeks since then and I feel like I’m on the right track. I’m making baby steps. My current project is to not mindlessly munch on office food during the down times during the day, and only eat the things I bring with me. Today is Day 2 of that, and I’ve done pretty well. I’m a little more motivated, and I feel less like OMG I CAN’T EAT ANYTHING GOOD EVER AGAIN like I did when I was on Weight Watchers. I’m attempting to build new habits, and it’s not easy, but if I can also learn to not be too hard on myself, I might have a shot at getting where I want to be.

PS - in case you missed the link in that mass of text, the recipe is here. For my version, I use almond milk, spinach, a combination of frozen peaches/mangoes/pineapples/bananas from Target, and a packet of stevia for sweetener. Sometimes I get fancy and add some of the booster things in too.


Kelly L said...

I'm drinking my green shake right now. Your shake is way more complex. Mine is just 1 cup frozen spinach, 1 banana, ice, and water. I've been adding Whey Protein powder though because i drink it after working out. Its vanilla flavored and its actually pretty good. Even without the vanilla flavor its actually really tasty.

Kelly L said...

I think, like most things in life, being healthy should absolutely be taken one day at a time. I have my days where I cannot stop eating bad things (chocolate! Girl Scout Cookies! cheese & crackers!) and I mentally tell myself to stop it, and I lose control. The next day I try to just forgive myself and let it go and vow to be better that day. The good news is, the more diligent you are with it, the easier it gets to keep at it. One foot in front of the other.

Kelly L said...

i loved this post! also, my favorite piece of advice for making changes to our diets is to focus on slowly adding things to your diet, rather than cutting a bunch of stuff out. the idea is that you won't be focused on all of the things you can't have but instead look to what exciting things you can add/try next. by adding little by little there will be less room/desire for the bad stuff! happy green smoothie-ing!

Kelly L said...

I love smoothies. I need to start incorporating more into mine, but I've played around with green smoothies and I was amazed that you can't even taste the spinach. As far as losing weight is concerned, the exercising part is way more difficult for me than the eating healthy.. I keep telling myself I'll start "tomorrow." haha.

Kelly L said...

Mine was always "I'll start on Monday." because it was the beginning of the week, a new start. It was always BS though because then I wouldn't. Or I would, but then I'd fall off track on Tuesday or Wednesday and not start again until next week. I am awesome at finding reasons to do anything else.

Green smoothies are my new favorite thing, although, really, I haven't really deviated from my "formula" unless I was out of fruit and had to sub something else. The tropical fruit is my favorite and I will keep making them the exact same way until I am too sick of them to ever have one again. Then, on to something new!

Kelly L said...

Oh, I love that! Adding rather than taking away. That is a PERFECT way to look at it. You are a genius!

Kelly L said...

You are most wise. I need to not beat myself up when I mess up. Because I get all overdramatic and "woe is me, all hope is lost" etc and it's miserable.

Kelly L said...

Yours does sound easier. But mine has peaches and mangoes so it wins. Peaches + mangoes win everything.

Kelly L said...

Kelly, I heart this post, I love your writing style, it makes me feel like we're having a conversation :) And, yes on the Nicole-recs. She's the best at those. My favorite green juice is mango-kale-spinach, with coconut water. so tasty! so doesn't taste green!

Kelly L said...

Yay!! It feels good to take care of yourself, doesn't it? :) I'm glad you're turning over a new leaf.

Personally, i think The Health Lady sounds a little sketchy. Chicken isn't bad for you, i promise. But hey, if you honestly prefer your pasta vegetarian, be my guest.

Kelly L said...

That particular lady hasn't been back since, so... I guess I'm not the only one who thought she was a bit off.

I love chicken! I just didn't like it with that pasta.

Also: OMG, yes. This whole thing has been kind of a fun experiment.

Kelly L said...

Aww, thanks! <3

I've never tried kale, I can't imagine it's too different? Maybe I should try that out one of these times.

I'm not sold on coconut water... I've never been an overly huge fan of coconut (unless it's in a pina colada) and the first BiSC I was at, I tried the one in our swag bag and it made me feel not-awesome. So I'm a bit wary of them...